Time Marches On

I’m a fan of Walgreens because of two things.

First, as far as I know, they’re the last folks in our Pseudofed-wary world to sell old school Nyquil.  It’s packaged under Walgreen’s label, but it’s that same disgusting red liquid that never fails to quiet your cough and knock your butt out when you have a miserable cold and need some shut-eye.

The other element that I love about Walgreens is that somewhere in every store a portion of an aisle is filled with products, each bearing a bright orange tag.  And that tag informs the shopper that the corresponding item is at a deep discount which is usually 75% off.

You never know what you’ll find.  I got a bento box for The Kid for 4.99.  For Petey, it was a big bag of Cadbury milk chocolate toffee priced at 75 cents.  I scored a big box of oatmeal for $1.50, and at $5 each, I couldn’t resist three pair of fleece-lined leggings. walgreensIt’s a treasure hunt under florescent lights.  The other day when I was in they had fancy little Batman and Superman 8 GB flash drives.  Each was nine dollars and the size of a hushpuppy.

So you’ll understand why the picture I saw last night made me shake my head.

It was a photo from 1956 of a bunch of guys struggling to get this piece of equipment the size of a guest bathroom out of the luggage compartment of a Pam Am airplane.  It had “IBM” stenciled on the top.The “equipment” turned out to be a 5 GB hard drive.  That’s almost 50% less capacity than the superhero drives at Walgreens.

The picture reminded me of learning about UNIVAC in elementary school.  UNIVAC was a computer which filled an entire room and had less processing power than the calculator we bought The Kid for high school math.

All of this brought home to me how the entire world has transformed since I was a child.

First of all, it’s a miracle we made it out alive.I, and every kid I knew rode in the back seat of a car that didn’t even have seat belts, let alone anchored, padded, car seats made of space age polymers.  We rattled around station wagons like BB’s in a Pringles can.  My folks had a VW bug, and when the car was filled with riders, they’d fold me into the little cubby behind the back seat—right above the engine.  I often rode in the same spot in our next car, a pinto; which was eventually recalled due to fiery explosions that occurred when the rear bumper was tapped.

In Puerto Rico, we actually had a party line, in which more than one household shared a circuit.  The phone rang in a particular cadence so that you could tell what house the call was for.

Today long distance and local calls are billed at one flat rate.  Talk to your Aunt Verbena in Altoona for 300 hours a month, or make local calls only; it all costs the same.

But back in the dark ages, calling long distance might necessitate a double mortgage.  A ten-minute call cost the equivalent of about $65.Pill box hats, 15 cent Cokes, and Captain Kangaroo have all gone away, and that’s a crying shame.  But some disappearances are nothing but good.

Like the welcome void of bouffant hair-dos and asbestos oven mitts.  And when was the last time you really wished for leaded gasoline, slide rules, or UHF?Thanks for your time.